MILESAGO - Features
Keith Glass - A Life In Music
Part 6: 1973 - "The Holy Land"

Skipping forward just a tad in strict chronological terms, September 1973 looms large in my memory. Right after my 27th birthday I caught a plane to the US, arriving in Los Angeles that same day, the 18th of September. I had a four month old baby and a thriving business at home and the Australian dollar was worth $1.25 (US)?things were good!

LA, despite the incredible smog from pre-unleaded gas guzzlers was still the promised land as immortalised in film and songs. Down on the Sunset Strip the remnants of late sixties flower power halcyon days were still evident. Venues such as the Whiskey-Au-Go-Go and The Troubadour (actually on Santa Monica) were not the worn out grunge hovels they are today. The Viper Room wasn’t even the previous down at heel bar named ‘The Central’ where Chuck E. Weiss held sway for six years or so but a dubious nightclub called Filthy McNasty’s.

Up on Hollywood Blvd were tons of record shops with bargain bins stocked full of obscure psychedelic gems, many that fetch big dollars now. Tower had recently opened their mid-blogglingly big superstore on Sunset. Major icons were everywhere from the Capitol tower which loomed large over Hollywood and Vine, shadowing the legendary Wallich’s Music store and visable further down to the home of the ‘wall of sound’ Goldstar recording studio on the corner of Santa Monica.

The next day I set out on my own odyssey over to North Hollywood (across the Hollywood Hills) to seek out Nudie’s western store and the famed Palomino Club further up Lankershim Blvd. That same day, the man who has become synonymous with west coast progressive country and the hipper side of Nudie suits, Gram Parsons was found dead in room 9 of The Joshua Tree Motel. It would be a few days before this news came to light, courtesy of the abduction and partial cremation of his body by ‘road mangler’ Phil Kaufman and Australian Michael Martin. In the meantime I had a brief conversation with the diminutive, cigar chomping Jewish tailor Nudie Cohn and experienced the full tawdry (that’s good) experience of a genuine country show at The Pal, from ‘the singing sheriff’ Faron Young?among his hits the epochal ‘Live Fast, Die Young And Leave A Beautiful Memory’.

The next night I was at The Troubadour to witness a truly bizarre performance by Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge when Kris dragged up on stage a dribbling, drugged out Gordon Lightfoot, a Polaroid snapping Roger McGuinn, a white-suited (although he now denies it) Bob Nuewirth and a distinctly out of place greasy looking, pre-outlaw Waylon Jennings. The Alabama leaning man Donnie Fritts was virtually under the piano while a bemused Billy Swan looked on through his one good eye. In the audience were Ross Ryan and manager Al Maricic there to promote Ross’ ‘A Poem You Can Keep’ album, released that week in the US by Capitol. Still no word on the street on Gram, my memory is the story broke on the news later that night because of the body snatching, otherwise his death would have passed virtually unnoticed by the mainstream media. There were other LA adventures and meetings with music people such as Denny Bruce (later producer of The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Don Gresham of RCA (I attended a session at the RCA studio, producer David Kershenbaum was recording Texas folkie Carolyn Hester at the time). Two great old time music men I met were Ray Avery and George Hocutt. They were just starting a distributorship called California Music and Ray had run the collector’s store ‘Rare Records’ out in the suburb of Glendale since the early 1950’s. He told me about selling hillbilly 78’s to Australian collector John Edwards ? the man who contributed so much to the documentation of The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and others and whose collection is now housed at Durham University at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. George also had a long music industry history which included discovering The Surfari’s of ‘Wipe Out’ fame.

My next stop was Nashville, people in LA were bemused by my interest in country music, but not half as much as the Tennesseans. I had an intro to Jerry Bradley at RCA and other than a desire to experience the Opry, see the Hall Of Fame and hang out at Tootsies not much else to do. Just as well because Nashville was a sleepy old town in 1973. After checking into my hotel for some reason I took a walk down beside Union Station on the railroad tracks. An old black Cadillac pulled up with a small, elderly black man behind the wheel. He asked me what I was doing, we got to talking and he offered to show me around Nashville. He looked harmless and turned out to be and we had a fine old time for a few hours while he showed me the sights, such as the pebble mix/cement copy of The Parthenon in Centennial Park and the Ryman, home of The Grand Ol’ Opry of course. My next stop was to get a beer at Tootsies served by Tootsie herself. I was also there many years later, well after her death, on the night when the place closed down, supposedly for good, only to the resurrected later and still be there on Lower Broadway, handy to the back of The Ryman, today.

My long hair was a still little at odds with the prevailing Nashville fashion and got me a few weird looks. More interesting to me were the still prevailing Wanda Jackson style beehives many women wore. I did pay a visit to RCA and met with producer Roy Dea, in the midst of making one of my all-time favourite albums, Gary Stewart’s ‘Out Of Hand’?he actually asked me if I had any drinking songs. Think that set me on a 25 year mission, now I have plenty! I played a few songs to a publisher called Milton Blackford and he actually liked them, but was looking for
a writers cut, even then I was none too keen on that idea but his company, quite a large one called Famous Music, did express some written interest over a few years, hard to follow up without being there.

After a visit to the Opry, soon to move to new purpose built HQ, so in a sense near the end of an era at the downtown Ryman, I hopped a plane to New York to complete the cursory overview of the USA. A Checker cab from JKF took me straight to the legendary Algonquin Hotel, in the 1930’s home to the literary set. Tullulah Bankhead had a room there for many years supposedly with an engraved plate on the door saying ‘Men’. Situated on 44th Street close to the theatre district but by the early 70’s a fading icon (since refurbished and now chic again). After checking in, I put my bags in the elevator and a couple of other people came in behind me. I heard a male voice uttering something nonsensical and turning around, I saw Dennis Hopper half slumped against the wall with (I presume) girlfriend Daria Halprin, who I recognised from the movie Zabriskie Point and was also pretty out of it. They were tripping! I knew enough to know that. Welcome to New York!